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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What happens after the honey bees get the "stop" signal?

Read this article to find out how bees communicate danger at the food source.  In other words, when does stop really mean stop?

What happens after the honey bees get the "stop" signal?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Functions of the Worker Bees

There are three castes of bees in a hive: Queen, Drones, and Workers.  In short, the Queen's purpose is to lay eggs, the Drones' purpose is to mate with a virgin queen, and the Female Workers do everything else.

Nearly all the bees in a hive are female workers, and there can be up to 40,000 in a single hive at peak production. During this peak time of production, when flowers and blooming and the nectar is flowing, the life span of a worker bee is about 6 weeks long; however, when the honey flow is over and egg/brood production stops, a worker bee can live upwards of 4 months through the winter months.

An amazing part of worker bees is how their role changes depending upon their age.  Below are there various functions as they mature (source:

Days 1-3 -- Cleaning cells and incubation

Day 3-6 -- Feeding older larvae

Day 6-10 -- Feeding younger larvae

Day 8-16 -- Receiving honey and pollen from field bees

Day 12-18 -- Wax making and cell building

Day 14-Death -- Entrance guards; nectar and pollen foraging

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Setting Up a Hive with Initial Bees

Here is another beginning beekeeper documenting setting up his new hive and package of bees.  This beekeeper is also in town and sets them up in his yard.....I don't think my neighbors would like that too much!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Life Cycle of a Honey Bee

This video looks at the life cycle of a honey bee from egg to larva to pupa to adult:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Colony Callapse Disorder

CBS 60 Minutes presented this feature about Colony Collapse Disorder on February 24, 2008:

Why are Honeybees Disappearing - Part 1

Why are Honeybees Disappearing - Part 2

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Video of a New Beekeeper Installing Bees

I found this video today of a new beekeeper installing bees for the first time in his new hive.  I can see this being my wife and I in about 3 weeks when we install our two hives.  Two things this guy doesn't use that he probably should: smoke and sugar water.  I kept wondering where this guy's smoker was to calm the bees.  Also, I've heard of people spraying their bees with a solution of sugar water while they are still in the bee box; this calms them down and keeps them focused on eating the sugar on their bodies.

I plan on Dawn video taping our experiences like this so everyone can see what happens!  Hope mine has a better ending than this guy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Bee Dance

This is an amazing little video explaining how bees communicate the location of flower sources to other bees in their hive using vector calculus.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bee Education with Neighbors

Yesterday I took one of my newly purchased hives over to my parents' house to show off my new toy.  It set it up in the front yard while explaining the components, and my mom took a real interest.  She talked about her childhood and how her dad had about 15 hives in a fence row near their house.  Apparently, Grandma would get upset at Grandpa because he would leave his work on the farm and "waste" a day catching a swarm if someone had one they needed to get rid of.  The frames in their hives didn't have any foundation for the bees to build on, so the bees just filled the frames on their own.  My mom would help her dad cut out the comb and then mash the honey out.  Grandpa raised bees until his death in 1947.  Mom seemed quite interested in learning what was new and what was the same in beekeeping.

While talking with my parents two of their neighbors walked over to see what was going on.  Neither had been involved in beekeeping and were quite interested in seeing the hive and learning about the facinating bees.  Dad even got in a few stories about his grandfather's hives.  Apparently, a lot of farmers prior to the 1950s had their own bee hives.

After returning home, I was talking with our neighbors across the street, and they were interested in learning about the hive sitting in the front yard. (Don't worry, my hives will be placed at the farm and not left in front of my house.)  I brought them over and showed the components.  They both seemed facinated by the tidbits of information about bees, their life cycle, and how a hive works. 

Even though I am just a bee-buyer and not yet a bee-keeper (bees are due to arrive the third weekend of April) it is a lot of fun watching people's faces light up like a child as they learn something new and facinating like bees.  I could see myself going to schools to teach the students and teachers about these remarkable little insects.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We Have Hives!

Yesterday we picked up our hives at Long Lane Honey Bee Farm.  It was a nice drive out to their farm through the small towns of Philo, Sidney, and Homer (we took the back way - watch out for Barney Fife!).  As we approached their farm we recognized the "long lane" and spotted bee hives scattered along the side of the lane.  It was fun trying to spot any bee activity as we drove up the lane.  The kids immediately spotted chickens walking around outside and had to investigate. 

Dave Burns met us at the door and introduced himself, though I felt as if we had already met after devouring information on beekeeping from his website, blog, videos, and audioblog.  We had a great time talking with David, who makes hives as one of his duties on the farm.  He explained the components to the hives and reinforced what I had learned at the Bee School in Kentucky on March 6th.  After we loaded the hives in the truck and headed out the kids started peppering me with questions about bees; it was fun watching them start to have an interest in these facinating little creatures.

If you would like to check out Long Lane Honey Bee Farm including their free beekeeping lessons, items for sale, training programs, etc., then follow this link: .

You can also check out this link:

Here is a great video of David while checking his hives earlier this month: David Burns checking his hives in early March 2010.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hive Pick-Up!!!

Today is the day! After work we are driving to Fairmount, Illinois, to pick up our two new hives from Long Lane Honey Bee Farm. We are taking the kids along for the pick-up, so it should be exciting! I'm hoping a little quick tour of their bee yard might help the family break the ice regarding beekeeping....I guess we'll see!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bee School - Part 4

Topic: Tips on Nutrition
Speaker: Can't Remember :-(

The following are some nutritional tips for beekeeping.
  • Bees need feed in the Spring, especially April, for rain spells. If it is raining, they cannot collect nectar. If you have a new hive without honey stores, your bees can run out of food and starve when it rains for a week or more straight!
  • You need to have 3-5 deep frames of honey for your bees just for the times when they cannot collect nectar.
  • When you check your hives look for these three things: (1) healthy activity, (2) eggs and larva, and (3) plenty of food.
  • Feed your bees thick syrup in the fall or during emergency times.
  • Feed your bees thin syrup in the Spring when they have enough food but you want to build up their food supply.
  • Thin syrup will increase egg production.
  • The best types of clover to plant for your bees are White Dutch Clover for early nectar, and Sweet Clover for later nectar.
  • DO NOT plant Ledina Clover.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bee School - Part 3

Presentation: First Year Management
Speaker: Kent Williams

More tips from Kent regarding your first year of beekeeping.
  • As your bees start filling up the brood chamber (the lower two boxes where the queen lays her eggs) they will fill the center frames on the bottom box and then start moving up to the second box. When the queen fills the center frames on the second box, move the brood in the second box to the outer frames on the lower box and place the empty frames up into the second box. By rotating frames in this manner you get the entire boxes filled with brood more effectively.
  • Over-super in the spring and under-super in the fall. Make sure that your bees have plenty of supers in the spring for filling with honey. In the fall take away any extra supers so the bees make that honey for themself for the winter.
  • If you have to treat a hive with chemicals, make sure you remove any honey supers.
  • Start prepping for next year in August. This means start feeding your bees to make sure they have enough food for winter.
  • Queens will start slowing their egg laying in July.
  • Real pollen is the best protein for feeding bees. (I have seen screens to add to your hive for catching pollen--need to investigate further).
  • In the fall feed your bees a 1:1 water/sugar solution.
  • Do not leave any empty boxes on the hives in the winter time. You want to help the bees consolidate the heat during cold weather.
  • Don't check your hives in the Winter until February; you don't want to let the heat out.
  • During the spring and fall, make sure the bee cluster is in the bottom box.
  • Swarming is caused by conjestion in the brood chamber.
  • If you are working with your hive and smell bananas, your bees are very angry with you!
  • Use smoke or alcohol immediately on a bee sting so as to keep other bees from wanting to sting you at the same location.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bee School - Part 2

Topic: Intro to Beekeeping
Presenter: Robin Mountain

Robin is a second generation beekeeper from South Africa whose family had over 4,000 hives who shared the following tidbits of information:
  • There are 47 different varieties of African bees; Killer bees are not African bees but a cross between European and African bees.
  • A Nuc is a nucleus bee hive that is made up of a laying queen, attendants, and 4 frames of brood and honey.
  • Put your hives on a stand of cinder blocks to keep skunks from messing with your hive.
  • Skunks are the worst preditors of bees.
  • Using a screen bottom board lets the mites fall through and helps protect your hive in a non-chemical passive way.
  • During the wintertime, put grass around 3 sides of your bottom board to stop the wind from blowing up into the hive.
  • Start beekeeping with two hives so you can monitor how well they perform with each other.
  • Have two hive tools with you when you get into the hives.
  • When starting a new hive with a queen, use a nail to poke a small hole through the candy on the queen cage.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bee School - Part 1

On March 6, 2010, I attended the Audubon Beekeeping School sponsored by the Audubon Beekeepers Association. The following are some tidbits from my notes that day.

Keynote Speaker: Kent Williams
Theme: Beekeeper or Bee-Haver

  • If you are going to be a beekeeper and not just someone who is a bee-haver, then you have to focus on sustaining your bee population because bees die.
  • You can count on having a 20-30% beehive loss each year.
  • To sustain your beekeeping operation you have to learn how to produce multiple hives from one hive, so as to replace the losses.
  • The most important thing about getting started in beekeeping is to GET STARTED. Don't worry about buying the best bees, just get some bees.
  • Year One Goal: Keep your bees alive.
  • Year Two Goal: Know how to make more hives by splitting swarms.
  • Have a Nuc box ready for each hive, so when it wants to swarm to can split the hive, not lose the bees, and expand your operation.
  • When a hive swarms, the old queen will leave taking half the hive with her, leaving the the new virgin queen behind.
  • The best time to split a hive is in the spring.
  • If you build your operation to start raising queens, do so in a chemical free queen yard.
  • Be sure and frequently watch your hive entrance for bee traffic; if traffic is low check out what the problem is.
  • Don't check your hives too often, because every time you go into the hive the bees lose a day of productivity because they have to fix what you messed up by disturbing them.
  • Check inside your hives at least 4 times a year but no more than twice a month unless you have a major problem.
  • Don't be in your hive more than 20 minutes.
  • Don't go looking for the queen, look for the evidence of her working (look for eggs and larva).
  • When you add your bees to the hive the first time, be sure an close the entrance to the hive before dumping in the bees. Use grass to block the entrance, so if you forget to remove it, they can work it out themselves.
  • Keep your hives at least 5 foot apart.
Kent was a very knowledgeable speaker: down to earth, practical, and funny.

Below is a video link of his 2007 presentation on First Year Beekeeping.

Next post will be on my notes from Introduction to Beekeeping by Robin Mountain, whose family had 4,000 hives in South Africa.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The more I read about bees, the more amazed I am at these little insects. Below are some interesting tidbits I have learned about bees:
  1. Worker bees only have a lifespan of about 30-45 days, while healthy queens can live for years.
  2. Queens and workers are actually the same bee....the only difference is that queens are fed Royal Jelly throughout their development, while workers are only fed Royal Jelly for a few days.
  3. Workers have an undeveloped reproductive system, while queens have a developed reproductive system.
  4. Drones are male bees that develop from unfertilized eggs.
  5. Virgin Queens, when they emerge from their cocoon, will mate with around 20 drones on their mating flight.
  6. Drones serve no purpose for the hive except to mate with a virgin queen....kinda like some men I know....
  7. During her peak laying time, a queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day!
  8. During the winter months bees keep warm by clustering into a bee ball and vibrating to make heat. A bee ball will stay around 95 degrees throughout the winter.
  9. To make 1 pound of honey bees will travel approximately 55,000 miles collecting nectar.
  10. One 3-pound box of bees that I ordered yesterday will contain approximately 10,500 bees! What a way to get buzzed!

Shaved Head, Drank Kool-Aid, & Ordered Bees!

Yesterday I shaved my head and drank the Kool-Aid (figuratively speaking)....I ordered two hives and two 3-pound packages of bees. I placed my order with Long Lane Honey Bee Farms east of Urbana in Fairmount, Illinois. The hives are already built and finished by David Burns, and I'll try to pick them up on March 19th (if all goes well). The bees will be ready for pick-up on the third weekend in April. There will be a lot of things to do before the bees arrive, such as planting clover and wildflowers at the farm. I also need to decide exactly where I want to have the bee yard. I think I'll made a beekeeper calendar to help me schedule what needs to happen when!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jumping In with Both Feet!

Hi, my name is Larry and I plan to be a beekeeper. I'm not one yet, but I have committed to the task by purchasing some of my equipment. Yesterday I attended a beekeeping school in Henderson, Kentucky and learned a wonderfully, overwhelming amount of information on beekeeping. I have the tools purchased and two bee suits (one for me and the other for which ever family member I can convince to visit the hives).

My next step is to order my bees and hives. It appears that bees are running out fast, so I need to place my order ASAP. I have invested about $260 and it looks like another $200 for the bees and then the hives. To keep cost down I will probably order hive kits and assemble them myself.

I decided to start a blog to keep track of this crazy little hobby. We will see where it goes. Bees are amazing! The more I read about them, the more facinated I get. Well, that is all for now. Press forward! Order bees and order hive kits.